Wednesday, January 08, 2014


EMPLOYMENT: Postdoctoral position on adaptive governance: water, land use and climate change in an urbanizing agricultural region

A two-year postdoctoral researcher position is available with the Water Sustainability and Climate (WSC) research group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as part of a five-year project funded by the National Science Foundation. The position requires strong social science training and ability to couple social research with ecological and hydrologic sciences. The researcher will have the opportunity to work with an excellent interdisciplinary research group (

This position will investigate the processes of environmental governance that shape human-environment interactions in the Yahara Watershed of southern Wisconsin. The WSC project features an integrated model and scenario development process to compare alternative futures for the watershed. Postdoctoral research:

  1. First, the postdoctoral researcher will analyze governance processes and decision-making under uncertainty in the context of climatic, environmental, and social change. This research will examine decision-making processes with past and modeled future ecological conditions in the Yahara Watershed. The researcher will examine the role of governance in scenarios and identify how modeled future nonstationarity in water, land use, agriculture, and climate may challenge existing governance regimes. The researcher will also compare theories of change.
  2. Second, the researcher will examine stakeholder engagement with the scenarios. We are interested in knowing whether engagement with scenarios by local stakeholders can alter perceptions and decision horizons and expand a space for creative thinking. The scenarios are provocative, plausible, place-based stories with contrasting social and biophysical conditions through year 2070.
  3. (optional) Depending on the applicant’s skillset, there may be an opportunity to continue developing a spatial dataset of policy interventions in the watershed to understand the role of different organizations (municipal, county, state, and federal agencies and nonprofit organizations) deploying different tools (acquisitions, regulations, incentives, etc.) to improve water quality.

The postdoc will work closely with an interdisciplinary team spanning social, ecological, and hydrologic scientists. The project involves six faculty, two full-time staff members, and numerous graduate and undergraduate students. The overarching question of our work is:  How will ecosystem services related to freshwater vary and how can they be sustained in regional watersheds as climate, land use and land cover, land management, the built environment and human demands change? As a part of this overarching question, we ask: How can regional governance systems for water and land use be made more resilient and adaptive to meet diverse human needs? In what ways are regional human-environment systems resilient and in what ways are they vulnerable to potential changes in climate and freshwaters? The geographic setting for this project is the Yahara Watershed, an urbanizing agricultural watershed in southern Wisconsin, containing the city of Madison. Here and elsewhere, human needs for freshwater are growing as changes in climate, landscapes, the built environment and institutions alter water flows and quality in sometimes unpredictable ways. These changes affect ecosystem services related to freshwater, such as flows of freshwater for domestic, agricultural, industrial, recreational and other uses; regulation of floods; water quality; and aspects of human health. To strengthen conceptual frameworks and improve predictive capacity, our interdisciplinary project will integrate biophysical and social-economic aspects of regional water systems. The position will also benefit from connections with the North Temperate Lakes - Long Term Ecological Research site and network.

Applicants should have strong social science training with a prior degree in human dimensions of natural resources, geography, political science, planning, environmental policy, or related field.  Background in water quality and quantity, agriculture, and/or land use change required. Previous social science research experience and ability to conduct interdisciplinary research are required. Experience with mixed qualitative and quantitative research methods is desired; ArcGIS and spatial analysis is desired but optional. Strong GPA, GRE scores, and oral and written communication skills are required. Applicants bringing diverse personal and professional backgrounds to the research program are encouraged to apply. The position will be co-supervised by Drs. Adena Rissman and Chris Kucharik.

The 2-year Postdoctoral Research position will begin in Summer 2014. Review of applications will begin January 13, 2014 and continue until an applicant is selected.

To apply, email to Dr. Adena Rissman at the following in a single PDF document: cover letter, CV with undergraduate/graduate GPA and GRE scores, and unofficial undergraduate/graduate transcripts.

Deadline: January 13, 2014

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